(July 18, 1853 – February 4, 1928)
Hendrik Antoon Lorentz was among the most outstanding physicists of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Despite losing his mother before the age of 10, he was able to persevere: focusing on his studies and excelling in both arts and sciences. At the age of 24, he was appointed a professor of theoretical physics: thus, occupying the inaugural chair at the Leiden University (which was his alma mater). Settled in this position, Lorentz wasted no time in carving a niche for himself: thanks to the early encouragements from Pieter Rijke (who supervised his doctorate) and Frederik Kaiser (his former astronomy professor). From hydrodynamics to electrodynamics, and from general relativity to quantum mechanics, no part of mathematical physics seems to evade his intrusion. In the process, he collaborated with many of his colleagues and corresponded with his growing brood of protégés. The depth of his researches was such that he frequently provided theoretical frameworks to several experimenters. This was how he contributed to the discovery of Zeeman Effect, which saw him and his erstwhile student, Pieter Zeeman, sharing the physics Nobel Prize in 1902. Aside from that, Lorentz contributed immensely to Albert Einstein’s Relativity Theory, to Hippolyte Fizeau’s Fizeau Experiment, and to a host of others. Remarkably influential, he chaired the first Solvay Conference in 1911, and later chaired the International Committee on Intellectual Corporation (which was the UNESCO’s forerunner). Hendrik Lorentz is the eponym of several scientific concepts and theory, in addition to the 312-kilometer wide Lorentz lunar impact crater.